A day of pure fun - The Wedding of Jessie & Tom at Southdowns Manor

Everything about Jessie and Tom's wedding at Southdowns Manor from start to finish was just fun! Actually, make that FUN, all in capitals. Massive smiles all around, with the grinning couple clearly enjoying their big day.


Abi & Dave's Sun-blessed Tipi Wedding in Hertfordshire


Abi and Dave's wedding at the start of April had an unexpected visitor - Summer!  The hottest day of the year so far was a welcome addition to their tipi reception in Hertfordshire. Hosted by Country Tipi's at Vanstone Park, the blue sky, surrounding greenery and smiling friendly faces really helped make this English countryside wedding a day to fondly remember.


The Wedding of Lyndsey & Chris at Wasing Park

On a stunning mid-summers day, Lyndsey and Chris celebrated their wedding at Wasing Park.

This Hampshire venue  is simply gorgeous, and it's easy to see why their honeymoon suite has been voted one of the top 10 in the world.

Kiwis & Kimonos: The incredible Wedding of Rose and Steve


Okay, let's get this cliché out the way: I love my job. The old saying 'love what you do' couldn't be more true for me. I love photography and I feel especially proud and honoured to be able to offer my services for newlyweds and being part of their very special day. Sometimes, however, unique shoots can be particularly rewarding... One of the most memorable has to be the wedding of Rose and Steve. 

The most notable thing about it for me as a photographer is that it was in New Zealand, literally a world away from my South England base. It is always such a privilege to shoot for a couple's wedding but to be especially flown out to the other side of the world in order to have me there was truly amazing and made me feel incredibly valued. Attending the wedding has allowed me to see some phenomenally picturesque places - something all photographers (not so secretly) yearn for. 

In preparation for the wedding, the Bride and the girls got themselves ready at the Bride's Mum's house in Te Awanga, a beautiful beachside village on the east coast of New Zealand. I could use the word 'typical' for this place, but think a better choice might be 'beautiful'... But that's exactly what New Zealand is (or at least my trip and the locations for this wedding): stunning all over. The Bridesmaids dressed in bright, vivid Kimonos (originating from Vietnam) which helped amplify the summery, vibrant feel of the whole event. They also very kindly let me be a part of their refreshing, relaxed breakfast before the trip to the church: a generous serving of ginger pancakes and fresh fruit. The atmosphere created from this chilled out yet planned team effort in the morning was fabulous and undoubtedly set everyone on their way for the rest of the day - me included! 

The wedding itself was held at St Matthew's Church in Hastings - a stunning, white, layered building over 100 years old and at the centre of the life that bustles around it. This was probably the more recognisable feature and location of the day as the church was beautifully decorated and clearly held a lot of local history in its pillars and stained glass windows. 

Then, for the reception, the couple and guests moved a little further away to the Silleni Estates Winery (named after a Roman god who enjoyed, well, celebrating with his pals with a nice glass of white or red!). In retrospect, I don't see why more people haven't made this sort of connection, as a winery or brewery would be the perfect place to help people get fully into the swing of things... Again, this location came with its own idyllic landscapes, offering many angles and perspectives for my work, such as the straight, narrow strips of vine, clustered with grapes. 

One thing did bamboozle me about the wedding of Rose and Steve, however... Often, the weather can pose as a challenge for weddings, but nothing really prepared me to find sunshine and good weather as a problem! 9 times out of 10 here in the UK, you hear of bad weather for weddings and it'll be rain, storms and winds. For shooting in New Zealand, the issue (if anything) was the brilliantly bright sunshine... This hinderance required me to think a little outside my usual zone, giving me a moment to reflect upon set ups and the technical aspect of my photography. It was great then - for this reason and many others - to have a second photographer with me (Steve Wilson), who was a little bit more used to the climate as he is based in Auckland. 

In all, it was a fantastic experience for me to shoot in such different surroundings and with a few different expectations from the bride and groom. But despite there being a  change to the norm for me and my work, their wedding had all the things that matter at the very heart of it: calmness, happiness and love. 

The Wedding of Ella & Ben at Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland

All too often, a wedding between two individuals can be Influenced by outside factors. Perceptions or values from family members, work pressures (such as when to take leave), or even the law all too often play a part in muddying the original plans (did you know, for example, that in Vermont, North East America, that a lady has to get written consent to wear dentures if she wants to get married?). As a result, the wedding can feel a bit washed out and become a bit of a compromise, unnecessarily removing the character of what should be the most memorable, individual day of a couple's life. 

For me, Ella and Ben did well to avoid all of this unnecessary trouble and threw the rule book out of the window. In doing so, this took people just a little outside of their comfort zone, just enough to create something exciting. Ella and Ben crafted an event that will surely live on in their guest's minds for years to come, as it will mine. 

So what made this couple's wedding different? Here's a little synopsis of the top three things that really stuck out whilst I had the pleasure of capturing their special moments:

1. The happy couple decided to dust away the cobwebs and frighten the ghouls away by having their wedding on Halloween. Taking on any national date is a brave move for newly weds, in my opinion... Okay, so Ella and Ben didn't have it on Christmas Day or New Years Eve, but it is still a big deal in the country's calendar of Things To Do and you still run the risk of disappointing children and their insatiable hunger for sugary treats from the neighbours. In all, Ella and Ben did well to embrace the spirit (no pun intended) of the day, with the odd witches hat or novelty glasses making an appearance in amongst an otherwise formal environment (don't worry, governing bodies of Vermont: no vampire dentures were used by the bride - see above!). It might sound trivial when compared to the larger, traditional accessories required for a wedding (like the wedding cake and dress!) but the quirky, fun element made all the difference, offering an easy and non-pretentious icebreaker for all the guests as well as quick, informal and easy angle for the theme for some of the photos. 

2. Simply, different parts of the day involved different locations - more than you're probably expecting...

Ella's and Ben's wedding itself was set in the breathtaking grounds of Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland - a grade one listed building and one of the largest inhabited castles in the country. Sat atop an ancient volcanic mass, it's surely one of the most impressive castle views you are likely to see in this part of the world. One glimpse of its vast grounds and you can guess the rich history that is infused in the stone, the intricate carvings and the masonry; almost each wing of the grounds has been built hundreds of years ago, torn apart from war, struggle and strife, then put back together again with Victorian vigour and devotion. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find such a diverse, self-sufficient castle, as over the years, various key buildings in the grounds have served as a bakery, library, brewery and classroom. It even has its own windmill, erected in the 18th century in a bid to cut the cost of bread. 

Meanwhile, the bride's pre-wedding preparations were undertaken at her parent's farmhouse nearby (her lineage is based in the local village of Belford). The reception was also delivered there, under an impressive marquee. 

In my mind, changing venue for each section of the day helped to stagger things as well as increase the chances of having more lasting memories. 

3. Usually, couples will want to hold the wedding, reception and shoot all on the one day, leaving the following day for the beginning of a honeymoon, or to perhaps regroup and chill. Between us, however, the couple and I agreed to return to the castle the next day in order to utilise the light and get pictures with the beautiful Bamburgh Castle in the background. As the castle had to remain open to the public during the day and their reception took up the majority of the evening, this meant that spacing things out made a lot more sense. From doing so, we also managed to take a stroll down to Bamburgh beach. For the time of year, it was pleasantly mild and sunny and was also completely deserted, meaning we had free reign to move and arrange compositions however we wanted. 
 
In all, their wedding and all the mini events that centred around it were fantastically different. Even my role as photographer was a little unique, as I was able to enjoy working alongside the talented second photographer Andy Sidders for the day (thanks again, Andy!). I truly feel their image gallery reflects the diverse, fun goings on that I was fortunate enough to document for the happy couple. 

There and Back Again: A New Zealand Adventure

Auckland

My first stop in New Zealand was Auckland, on the North Island.  Although not the Capital of New Zealand, this is by far the largest city on the two islands, home to around 32% of the population.

The iconic 1074ft Sky Tower dominates the city's skyline, the tallest man-made structure in the Southern Hemisphere.

To the west of the city lies Muriwai, the dramatic and scenic coastline of the North West of New Zealand, also home to a huge Gannet colony. 

Muriwai Beach and Gannet Colony

Muriwai Beach and Gannet Colony


Taupo, Rotorua and Hawke's Bay

Not having a huge amount of time to explore the North Island, a quick visit down to Lake Taupo and Hawke's Bay was needed.   Taking in the Geothermal landscape of Waiotapu and Rotorua, including the beautiful, but violent Champaign Pool.  The Art-Deco architecture of Napier, a city that time seems to have forgotten and the volcanic Tongariro National Park.

The plan was to walk the Tongariro Crossing, which would lead me over Mount Tongariro and along the base of Mount Ngauruhoe.  However the weather scuppered that plan, so a drive upto Mount Ruapehu and Meads Wall was the alternative.  Meads Wall was used in a scene from Lord of the Rings where Frodo and Sam get lost in the mist trying to get to Mordor, so with the same conditions it felt as if I was in Middle Earth searching for Mordor myself.

The Champaign Pool and Geothermal Park

The Champaign Pool and Geothermal Park

Huka Falls

Huka Falls

Waipunga Falls

Waipunga Falls

The Art-Deco Napier

The Art-Deco Napier

Sunrise over Hawke's Bay

Sunrise over Hawke's Bay

Meads Wall, Mount Ruapehu

Meads Wall, Mount Ruapehu

Waterfalls in Tongariro National Park

Waterfalls in Tongariro National Park


Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Simply the most stunning place I have ever seen in my life.   The landscape around Mount Cook (Aoraki) is absolutely breathtaking, and boasts some of the best day walks in the world.  

I opted for the Hooker Valley track, which leads its way through the Hooker Valley to the base of Mount Cook.    Also taking some time to take in the views from Lake Pukaki and my first attempt at trying to photograph the Milky Way.

The Milky Way over the Tasman Valley / Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

The Milky Way over the Tasman Valley / Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park


Queenstown

To be honest I wasn't a huge fan of Queenstown, a haven for adrenaline junkies.  Although I would go back and spend a bit longer there to be proven wrong, as this was on a quick stop on my way to Fiordland.    The scenery was stunning, and the drive through the Lindis Pass and the Crown Range Pass was spectacular. 

Panorama of Queenstown

Panorama of Queenstown

The Lindis Pass

The Lindis Pass

The Crown Range Pass and Stoneridge Estate Vineyard and Winery

The Crown Range Pass and Stoneridge Estate Vineyard and Winery


Fiordland (Rain, rain and rain)

I was looking forward to my visit to Fiordland and a cruise around Milford Sound.  However it would not stop raining for the three days I was there, and having seen photos of a pristine Milford Sound with blue skies this was a little depressing.  However, I have since learned that it rains around 220 days a year in Fiordland, so in-fact I was getting a true experience, and I must admit the overcast skies did add a lot of drama to the landscape.

I had also heard about a spectacular lake hidden away in the Darran Mountains, which would mean a tramp up through some rainforest to an amazing view.    However, after the hardest hike of my life through streams, waterfalls, over fallen trees and nearly 4 hours of UP, I came across a cloud hidden and flooded lake at the top, and no way through.  Disappointing, but some amazing rainforest to hike through.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Seals resting in Milford Sound

Seals resting in Milford Sound

Lake Te Anau

Lake Te Anau

The rainforests around Fiordland National Park

The rainforests around Fiordland National Park


Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park

Around Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park is stunning, but again I was very hit and miss with the weather.    A hike up Roy's Peak was hampered with incoming thick cloud and fading light, but I did get some amazing views walking up. 

I did have to take a photo of the Lone Tree of Wanaka though, and some say it's possibly the most photographed tree in the world, and you can see why!    On a misty and calm morning, the tree looks a lonely figure with only its refection for company.

The Lone Tree of Wanaka

The Lone Tree of Wanaka

Views from Roy's Peak walk

Views from Roy's Peak walk

Lake Hawea

Lake Hawea

Fantail Falls

Fantail Falls


Rebuilding Christchurch

In both 2010 and 2011 Christchurch was hit by 2 major earthquakes and their aftershocks.  Although the larger 2010 quake did cause damage, the second quake caused more devastation to the City's infrastructure, including the iconic Christchurch Cathedral.

I was shocked at the amount of damage still visible, with nearly all the buildings still condemned and waiting for demolition.   The most recent earthquake hitting earlier this year, and halting most of the rebuilding.     However, the spirit of Christchurch is most defiantly being rebuilt, with a temporary mall (Re:Start Mall) made from shipping containers, flowers adoring the security fencing, the main square being used for pop up street food vans and entertainment in the evenings.

Around Christchurch..

I also took some time to visit some areas around Christchurch.   Venturing to New Brighton on the east coast for sunrise, a drive to the harbour town of Akaroa, the epic Devil's Punchbowl Falls in Arthur's Pass, Castle Hill's surreal landscape of limestone boulders which was used as a backdrop for the Battle of Narnia in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  I also stumbled across the Clay Cliffs while following signs for a 'scenic lookout'.

New Brighton Pier at Sunrise

New Brighton Pier at Sunrise

Green Lipped Mussels in Akaroa

Green Lipped Mussels in Akaroa

Devil's Punchbowl Falls, Arthur's Pass

Devil's Punchbowl Falls, Arthur's Pass

Kura Tawhiti / Castle Hill Peak

Kura Tawhiti / Castle Hill Peak

The Clay Cliffs

The Clay Cliffs


Hobbiton

What trip to New Zealand isn't complete without a visit to the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata?    Yes it was touristy, yes it was busy and yes it was expensive, but well worth it for any Lord of the Rings fan.   A great end to my first New Zealand adventure (oh, I will be back!).


Chefchaouen - The Blue City

The stunning City of Chefchaouen is located in Morocco's Rif Mountains. This has to be one of the most beautiful places I've seen in my life. I thought this place deserved its own blog post, the remaining photos from my visit to Morocco will follow soon.

Chefchaouen was painted blue by the Jewish refugees who lived there during the 1930's. The beauty of Chefchaouen's mountainous surroundings are enhanced by the contrast of the brightly painted medina (old town). It is this beauty and the relaxed atmosphere of the town that makes Chefchaouen very attractive to visitors. The doors are blue, sidewalks are blue, stairs are blue, it seems like everything is blue, welcome to Chefchaouen, the Blue City!  If blue is your favourite colour, you may as well just move here.

If you're visiting Fes, I'd highly recommend using Fes City Tours for a day trip to this wonderful city.  My driver Moha was the nicest, friendliest and most welcoming person I met during my time in Morocco.

Enjoy.   I think I'm going to print all of these and dedicate a wall of my flat to Chefchaouen.


 

My Favourite 10 Photos from 2015

I prefer to call this list more of a top 10 favourite photographs of 2015 rather than the “best of”.     It's been a very busy and successful year, so it's pretty hard to get this list down to just 10, but the following are the photos that are significant to me and really make me proud.   In no particular order:


1.  Blur at Isle of Wight Festival

Photographing music performances is often very difficult, as we are usually only give the first 3 numbers.   The goal is to capture the energy of the moment and the performance.  This shot with Damon amongst the crowd during their headline slot really captures the energy of the moment perfectly.


2. Preen by Thomas Bregazzi - Spring/Summer show at London Fashion Week (City Hall)

I love fashion shows where the location is as much a part of the show as the clothes.   For London Fashion Week in September, Preen went above and beyond and used the magnificent architecture of City Hill as it's backdrop.


3. Mont Saint-Michel, France

Driving to Mont Saint-Michel, I noticed this view and loved the way the Citadel of Mont Saint-Michel and the golden corn field looked like a scene from the Wizard of Oz.    A nice change from the normal photos of this landmark.


4. Ella & Ben at Banburgh Castle

Shooting a Wedding at such an iconic venue was an absolute joy.   The only problem was the Wedding was in the evening, and the couple wanted photos with the castle as the backdrop.   So, 9am the next morning, Ella threw her dress back on and we headed to the beach to be greeted with this amazing weather (on 1st November!).    Lighting from the front to compensate the strong sunlight, I love the shadows on the grass almost framing the couple with the hazy castle imposing in the background.


5. The City from Crystal Palace

Having just had a meeting in Crystal Palace I stumbled across this incredible view of London.  Luckily I had my camera with me.   The row of houses and the telephone wires giving perfect framing around the city's skyscrapers. 


6. Billy Idol at Isle of Wight Festival

Although not my best music photo by far, it has still made my favourites list due to the fact I had the worst hayfever imaginable and couldn't see a thing.   I had to open my eyes briefly to sense the light and then take the photo.     Not something I want to go through again, but proud of myself for carrying on.  


7. The crowd at Roskilde Festival.

During Muse's set, I decided to take a walk to the back to get a few atmosphere photos of the iconic stage.   This girl on shoulders was in the perfect place when there as a huge burst of light from the stage.


8. Georgina and Matt's Wedding at Aynhoe Park

Such a weird and wonderful venue.  Aynhoe Park in Oxfordshire is a quirky wonderland of collectables and taxidermy set in a stunning stately home.   Everything was just perfect with this wedding, and Matt & Georgina were the ideal couple for this quirky venue.


9. London Aquatics Centre, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London

A photographers dream of lines and curves.   Such a stunning building, and I love this angle taken with the footbridge overhead.


10. Juliet & Patrick's first kiss

Newlands Chapel is a quaint little intimate wedding venue in Kent.  When I'm the only photographer, I'd usually I'd try and get the first kiss shot from the front, but the I felt a shot from the back showing the intimacy and the stunning venue combined with this key moment would work much better. 


The Wedding of Ina & Tim at the Sussex Barn, Hellingly

Sometimes the simplest, natural things are the best. To me, Ina and Tim's wedding is a real testament to this way of thinking, as they managed to centre the celebration of their joining together around three important things: family, friends and fun.

Perhaps what helped the happy couple to keep things loose, calm and joyful was that they had opted to do the legal ceremony a few months earlier. In my opinion, this worked to their advantage as it took away the formal side of things and gave everyone the chance to sit back and enjoy being a part of their personal, customised ceremony. Having this time to enjoy and digest the formal ceremony no doubt helped Ina and Tim in terms of nerves, whilst getting the legal obligations out the way. 

Their marriage meant the joining of two very distant cultures together. Ina is originally from the Midwestern American state of Missouri, whilst Tim's family have Scottish roots. The couple chose to draw their two families together in the idyllic, picturesque English countryside.

Hellingly, a rural village in East Sussex, has more than its fair share of tranquil, inspirational landscapes (how about the Horselunges Manor, which was featured in the opening scene in Led Zeppelin's film, The Song Remains the Same?!). However, I believe the couple found a real gem of a location: The Sussex Barn. This picturesque site was built over 400 years ago and has been listed as a grade two building. Located on a working farm, it was cleared out and spruced up in 2008 to become a beautiful wedding venue and has been in demand ever since. 

The detail in Ina and Tim's wedding amplified the overall country feel, whilst still keeping fun at the core. Wildflower bouquets adorned the barn, complimenting the rich wooden beams of the barn, whereas the overall rustic atmosphere was emphasised by simple, brilliant touches, such as hay bales for guests to relax on - a fitting tribute to the barn itself. And with the importance of family at their wedding, what better way to celebrate and embrace this than to have a relative make the wedding dress? Ina's sister, who has a clear talent for textiles and design, created a luscious, rich and personal design, adding a real intimate touch and ensuring what Ina was wearing was for the bride and the bride alone. There was even a tongue-in-cheek, handmade signpost on location, signalling the thousands of miles the two families span across (4401 miles to Missouri). 

The images my second photographer Yuliya and I were able to produce for their special day were fitting to what they were like as a couple on the day. My images reflected the fact the wedding was personalised, full of a calm atmosphere and very heartfelt. In all, my role as photographer was an absolute joy to manage for Ina and Tim and I am very happy with the end results. The cliche of a good picture telling a story; in the case of this wedding, it was extremely easy to achieve... 

The Wedding of Sarah and Mark, The Domus, Beaulieu, Hampshire

Being asked to photograph a wedding is always a great privilege and great responsibility, as you are in charge of capturing images of the special day that will be cherished for the rest of a lifetime. For one particular wedding shoot, though, I felt I had a bit of an added responsibility as I was to shoot a fellow professional photographer's special day who has also won award-winning credentials... 

Cue Mark and Sarah. I have known Mark Holloway since I began my career in Photography. He was the winner of Getty Entertainment Photo of the Year for 2014 and is also a fellow photographer for Redferns and Getty Images. So being asked to capture his wedding was a great honour and a fantastic job to prove my professionalism and ability to cater to the needs of the client. And what a day it was! 

The couple were married on 9th August in a medieval hall in the idyllic grounds of Beaulieu, otherwise known as 'The Domus'. Originally built 800 years ago by Cistercian Monks from France, this location is clearly steeped in history and has a real air of mystery and long ago secrets waiting to be revealed. The Domus, alongside the Monks' Refectory, were the only two buildings to survive the Dissolution of the Monasteries, as ordered by Henry VIII. If anything, this has made the location even more significant and a key landmark in Beaulieu. 

Observing their wedding from a professional and outsider perspective, it was clear to see that the day was going to be fondly remembered. And it became quite clear how I was to give them a set of images in order to reflect that, as well as their very individual personalities. Both Mark and his bride Sarah had planned and been able to pull off a wedding that many would hope for: a day full of love and laughter. 

It was simply fabulous to be a part of their special day and help find and create memories of the day that represented their character and relationship between them. Did Mark and Sarah have a secret to their success? Well, they were blessed with the weather but they had clearly planned well, holding the wedding in a great, representative location whilst choosing to cut out some of the formalities. The combination of which meant that everyone could just get on and enjoy themselves and I could unobtrusively stay at the side lines and capture those memories. It was just great to be part of a special day which dropped all the stuffy, drawn out bits. I'm not in any way saying that it's wrong to have a bit of rigidity and pomp for traditions sake - but when it doesn't suit the bride and groom and gets in the way of enjoying the day, it's good to take a step back and have a day to suit you.

Perhaps it had something to do with dropping some of the unnecessary formalities, or maybe it was just the great personalities that these guys had, but Mark and Sarah were fabulous to photograph. They were laid back, natural and just continued to do their own thing throughout the day, which made my job a real pleasure and resulted in some fantastic images. The same could be said for their two daughters, Millie and Sophie, who were all smiles and beaming with joy for their parents throughout the day. 

It must be said, I'm really pleased with the photography set which came from the wedding of Mark and Sarah. The location (The Domus) was fantastically grandiose yet rustic and friendly. Better still, the many friendly souls who filled that room on their special day clearly enjoyed themselves and helped to provide a warm and suitable welcome to the newly weds. Mark has yet to present me with an award for 'Best Wedding Photographer At My Wedding', though, but I guess there's still time...